Tag Archives: Common Good

Common Ground, Common Good

Living in the Spirit
September 1, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 12:9-21

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. –Romans 12:14-21

I read an article recently acknowledging the fact that the USA has lost its mainstream values. We seem to want to take great pride (which by the way is one of the seven deadly sins) in being a Christian nation while we grow further and further away from basic Christian values. Paul list many of those values in our scripture today. Is it possible that our government works best not enforcing the tenets of a specific religion, but when our citizens live the tenets of their faiths and thus they are reflected in statutes?

In William Martin’s historical fiction work, Lincoln’s Letters, the lead character from the Civil War sections gained the help of free African Americans because he was known to tip his hat to all he met. In the mid-19th Century, gentlemen tipped their hats to other gentlemen and ladies but apparently did not deem it necessary or appropriate to recognize others similarly. When asked why she helped him, one woman said something in effect that she was a Christian and she could see the good in him.

The major religions of the world share many values. They can and do come together to find common ground regarding faith interactions. I do not doubt if our elected officials sought the Common Good rather than practice my way or the highway politics, the USA would stabilize and prosper for all its citizens and immigrants.

Prayer: Lord, help us, be doers of the Word. Open our hearts to living your values. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Serving God is Serving Others

Eastertide
May 15, 2017

Scripture Reading: Acts 17:22-31

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, ‘Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, “To an unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. –Acts 17:22-27

How many times do we use language describing ourselves as serving God? Today I stumble over Paul’s sentence (emphasis added): The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. I am amazed that I had not seen this before or  at how much sense Paul makes. God loves us and wants the very best for us. Thus, it stands to reason that the service we do for and with each other is the extension of God’s love through us to one another. Following the way of being  Jesus modeled and taught shows us the how of living into God’s love by serving one another.

Recently, I was stunned by a leader in the Oklahoma legislature who refused to put forward a change in our state gaming laws, which included more revenue for the state, because gambling was against his personal moral values based, I assume, on his faith. While he apparently sees no moral issues in increasing state revenues by adding regressive taxes that impact the poor disproportionately. He clearly does not understand that a 6 cent per gallon gasoline tax increase causes extreme hardship for someone living on $7.50 an hour while it would barely impact someone making $50 an hour. It seems we confuse the responsibility to follow our personal moral beliefs by projecting them onto others as addressing the Common Good. We fail to provide for the Common Good through finding our collective moral center in concern for our fellow citizens, which is the Common Good.

Prayer: Lord, guide us in serving you more nearly by considering and serving all your offspring in your name. Amen.

Credit for Slide: https://www.slideshare.net/ValuesCentre/cultural-transformation-vs-change-richard-barrett

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

God’s Vision of the Common Good

Epiphany
January 31, 2017

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 58:1-12

Is not this the fast that I choose:
   to loose the bonds of injustice,
   to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
   and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
   and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
   and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
   the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
   you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. –Isaiah 58:6-9

One of the positives that comes from political discord is we each must grapple with what it is we hold dear. I find it intriguing that we make a big deal out of some issues that are barely mentioned in scripture or not mentioned at all while turning our backs on ways of being that are mentioned throughout scripture multiple times, even commanded by God. Welcoming the stranger is an example. Loving our neighbors is another. These are both subset actions of the umbrella calling to do justice.

Doing justice implies the need to have structures and processes in place for societies to operate in an orderly and fair fashion. The United States functions within a representative democracy with a checks and balance system among three branches of governance; Executive, Judicial, and Legislative. The purpose of such a government is to provide for the Common Good of all its citizens. Such systems can be traced to the beginning of history. For example, Deuteronomy 26.13 describes the care required by the community of faith for widows and orphans.

We are called to do justice as individuals and communities of faith and as citizens of this country. Addressing that calling is challenging when there exists conflict among these entities. Such conflict requires us to reach deeper into the wellspring of God’s love for guidance.

What do we hold dear?

Prayer: Lord, I wonder sometimes how you feel when you receive prayers from your followers that are diametrically opposed. How do you sort that out? Please help us each to have a better and clearer understanding of your vision for us and guide us to find the Common Good for all your children. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

Doing Justice in Peace and Love

Epiphany
January 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: Micah 6:1-8

O my people, what have I done to you?
In what have I wearied you? Answer me!
For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
And redeemed you from the house of slavery;
And I sent before you Moses,
Aaron, and Miriam. –Micah 6:3-4

Micah muses on the thought processes of God looking on his people and wondering what he did wrong. In what have I wearied you? It is reminiscent of Jesus looking over Jerusalem from a hillside and saying, ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!’ (Matthew 23:37)

 I heard on a news program a reporter describing an event he experienced at the inauguration where a man in the crowd accosted the reporter on the street upon seeing his press credentials calling him bad names he could not repeat on television. It seems all news is now considered fake if it does not report what we want to hear. What kind of world do we live in, if we can trust no one?

We need to take to heart our individual and collective civilities as citizens of a country built on government by the people. Such governance does not give us license to do whatever is right for only ourselves. To the contrary, it makes us responsible for the wellbeing of each of our citizens as we provide for the Common Good.

As followers of Christ, children of God, we are called to be change agents for a just world, a challenging task. One we cannot do alone but with the love of God, the example of Jesus, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is a challenge we must address.

Prayer: Lord, send your Spirit to guide us in doing justice in peace and love. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Winner Take All or Common Good

Epiphany
January 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:1-4

They rejoice before you
   as with joy at the harvest,
   as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
   and the bar across their shoulders,
   the rod of their oppressor,
   you have broken as on the day of Midian. –Isaiah 9:3b-4

I believe the government of the United States accurately reflects the will of the people. We want to have our cake and eat it too, which is, of course, impossible. The type of governance is not important. The Israelites brought on their own destruction within monarchies; we can do it within a democracy as we destroy the fail-safes of our checks and balances system.

Also, as with the Israelites God offers the means to break the rod of our oppressors. The problem lies in our willingness to part ways with that which overshadows us. The Babylonians and Assyrians were just the benefactors of Israelites’ disintegration from within. The true oppressors were the greed and lust for power that moved the focus of the nation from the Common Good for all to winner takes all in which case everybody eventually loses.

Now during the transfer of power in the USA, perhaps rather than get caught up in winners and losers, self-examination should be our focus. What do we really want out of life? How would we define the Common Good? How did Jesus define the Common Good? A re-reading of the Sermon on the Mount might provide insight. Matthew 25 would provide insight also.

Prayer: Lord, help us understand what it is you want for all your children. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Relatives Through Christ

debtorsprisonChristmas
December 30, 2016

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 2:10-18

Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
–Hebrews 2:14-18

I grow weary of competition among the nations. There are no borders in the Kingdom of God. We are called by God to want enough for every man, woman, and child in this world. I must desire a living wage not only for every citizen of the United States, but also very every citizen of Mexico, the Congo, and, yes, Russia and China. If I want peace and safety in my hometown, I want it for Chicago and Aleppo too.

Genealogy is a great equalizer. I have met a first cousin eight times removed through my research. I have not been able to verify it fully, but I believe one of my ancestors and his father came to the USA in 1759 on a prisoner ship from England. What behavior had resulted in their deportation, I wonder? Many came from debtor’s prisons, others as thieves and some for brawling. Or I could be mistaken and that family line, as other researchers believe, may be the offshoot of a nobleman whose son came to the USA on a lark in 1618. The son became landed gentry. I have a rather fanciful vision of DNA tracing us all back to the same starting point. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we all had to accept that we are all at least cousins? Isn’t that what the creation story is trying to tell us? Isn’t that the message Jesus taught?

Prayer: Lord, enable us to view your world through your eyes to see the solutions you intended since the beginning. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Leaning on God

wells-of-salvation1Living in the Spirit
November 9, 2016

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 12

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say on that day:
Give thanks to the Lord,
   call on his name;
make known his deeds among the nations;
   proclaim that his name is exalted. –Isaiah 12:3-4

I spent election day this year watching 2,000+ voters weave their way through two precincts that vote at my church. All age groups, most races, varied religions, identifiable by a Yamaka or a scarf, were represented. Knowing this was a momentous election my church decided to serve coffee and water with some muffins and cookies to make the wait to vote easier. My observation of the participants occurred during the process of filling coffee pots and answering questions. I voted in the early voting so I could be available to do this work. These voters live within a 27-block area running north and south by a ten-block area running east and west. I live in a city. Most of my family live in rural areas lacking the same degree of diversity that is my everyday experience. Those differences it seems, have come to a head in this election.

The rural/urban divergence is just one of the challenges our nation and our churches face in which the nation must address the Common Good; the church must become one in Christ Jesus. When considering the magnitude of these differences, I am left feeling rather hopeless that either of this desired outcomes, Common Good, and oneness, will every become a reality. A simple reading of Isaiah describes in many places exactly what I am feeling now. In our scripture today, Isaiah leans on God’s wellspring of salvation as the very source of the hope I am lacking.

I want with all my heart to be so in sync with God that my being reflects my faith. Often, I get caught in the web of having nowhere else to turn but to God before I lean into God’s salvation. I do thank God for understanding my stubborn bent to be independent, and I thank God for always being my Savior when I finally seek God’s salvation.

Prayer: Give me the courage to lean on you in all ways always. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Common Blame

blameLiving in the Spirit
October 15, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 18:1-8

Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.” For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.”’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’

An Oklahoma state senator staffer told me once that it, in general, took ten years to get a needed piece of legislation passed. The staffer and I were working on vital changes that would upgrade our child care system. It did take at least ten years. The need for universal health care was recognized when Medicaid and Medicare were enacted in the mid-1960’s. Monumental steps, these two programs were just a beginning. Lots of vested interests create the environment for extensive negotiations. Gridlock result when we the people do not encourage our elected officials to compromise. Sometimes I wonder if gridlock is a goal as maintaining the status quo leaves expensive, inefficient systems in place which continue to produce healthy profits, not healthy people.

We all share common blame as we fail to meet the Common Good. We want the government to be there when we need it and provide fast effective responses. We do not necessarily want to pay for the services we demand or we do not want to pay for services someone else might need.

No matter who is elected on November 8, our job does not end with our vote. We need to emulate the widow in our scripture today and demand justice until we get it. Such work requires us to understand what is just and what is not. It demands that we try to see issues from the eyes of the others involved and search along with our elected officials for new and innovative ways of meeting the Common Good.

Prayer: God of Justice, Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour*. Amen.

*Phrase from hymn God of Grace and God of Glory by Harry E. Fosdick see at http://www.hymnary.org/text/god_of_grace_and_god_of_glory

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Much Ado About Nothing

tvLiving in the Spirit
September 12, 2016

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 8:18-9:1

My joy is gone, grief is upon me,
   my heart is sick.
Hark, the cry of my poor people
   from far and wide in the land:
‘Is the Lord not in Zion?
   Is her King not in her?’ –Jeremiah 8:18-19

William Shakespeare wrote Much Ado About Nothing in 1598-99, a comedy about court politics. It seems not much has changed. We live in serious times needing serious attention. In search of information on which to base our judgments, we seem to thrive on character assassination. A larger than life reality show has taken over our media. I fear it will continue as long as it makes the large media companies money.

Jeremiah’s lament relates to serious times ignored for reasons of power and greed. We live in a nation proclaimed as having a Government of the people, by the people, for the people about which Abraham Lincoln proclaimed shall not perish from the Earth*.

 The privilege of participative government depends on our willingness to take responsibility for it. We are not living in a reality show where at the end we can push the off button and not worry about the outcome. What we do matters not just for us but for the generations to come.

Prayer: Lord, give us the wisdom of a Jeremiah. Help us perceive the difference between information and manipulation. Guide us not to back away from our civic duties but to search for the truth and demand governance targeted at assuring the Common Good for all. Amen.

*From the Gettysburg Address. See at http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm

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All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

On not letting Distractions become Our Way

Dees-family-watching-hypnotic-TV-screenLiving in the Spirit
July 6, 2016

Scripture Reading: Psalm 82

‘How long will you judge unjustly
   and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
   maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
   deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ –Psalm 82:1-3

While the USA government was founded on the principle of religious freedom, there is no question that many of its tenants derive from some of the founders Judeo-Christian backgrounds. The very center of government’s responsibilities to assure the Common Good lies at the heart of that background. It, however, also has very practical applications. As I write this the US Congress is considering how to fund a response to the Zika virus that is beginning to invade our land. Zeka’s mosquito carriers do not differentiate between the rich and the poor, the haves, and the have-nots, the sinners, and the saints. We have a shared responsibility to do whatever we can to prevent the spread of this disease wherever it may strike. Some in Congress are using it as a tool for political leverage even when time is of the essence.

We do not wisely judge when we invest our souls in power and greed instead of the Common Good. There is room for discussion and negotiation regarding every issue considered. Having people with diverse backgrounds and knowledge bases leads to better decisions. In my work for social justice, I have learned much from small business owners about the challenges of paying a minimum wage much less a living wage. I still strongly believe that wages need to be adjusted, but done so in a way that allows a business to remain solvent. Problems often arise when other interests cloud the issues.

The Psalmist is calling us to task in our scripture today for letting those other interests overrule what is the best for all of God’s people.

Prayer: Lord, keep us so centered in your love that we can readily recognize distractions for what they are and circumvent them toward finding your will in our lives. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.